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Updated: 49 min 22 sec ago

Vick: Update on State Bar 2018 President-elect nominees

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:06

State Bar President Tom Vick

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members Wednesday

Dear Members,

I’m writing to let you know that the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee of the State Bar Board of Directors voted today to nominate Lisa Blue of Dallas and Randy Sorrels of Houston to be candidates for 2018-2019 State Bar president-elect. The Board of Directors will vote on the nominations at its next meeting, on January 26 in San Antonio.

The election will take place April 2 to May 1. The winner will serve as State Bar president-elect in 2018-2019 and as president in 2019-2020.

You may have heard that Ms. Blue and Mr. Sorrels have been gathering petition signatures to become candidates for president-elect. Under the State Bar Act, Texas lawyers can run for president-elect either through our board’s nomination process or by collecting petition signatures.

This year, the subcommittee decided to nominate the petition candidates for board consideration. This is unusual, but I believe it is prudent under the circumstances.

Here’s why: Our board’s Nominations and Elections Subcommittee met in September and identified 31 potential president-elect nominees. With the exception of Ms. Blue and Mr. Sorrels, none of them desire to be candidates. When contacted, many expressed interest in running for president-elect someday, but they did not want to run this year because in their view the petition candidates, who started gathering signatures months ago, had a significant head start on campaigning and thus a potential advantage.

As I reported in September, the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee is working to ensure that all candidates—whether they are selected by the board or certified through petition—have the same opportunities to campaign under our election guidelines. The subcommittee and the full board will continue to work to improve our processes.

In the meantime, anyone seeking election as a petition candidate in 2018 has until March 1 to be certified for a place on the ballot.

I will keep you updated on the nomination process. If you have questions or comments, please let me know.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

Wafa Abdin named executive director of Houston Volunteer Lawyers

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 09:00

Wafa Abdin has been named the new executive director of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers. “I am very excited about the opportunity to work with pro bono volunteers and the HVL team to provide to low-income individuals free civil legal aid that helps stabilize families, maintain housing, and even improve children’s health,” said Abdin, who served as vice president for Immigration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and led the Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance.

In her more than 16 years of pro bono legal service, Abdin has represented detained adults and juveniles, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking and other crimes before the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration Court, and the Board of Immigration.

Abdin is a former president of the Arab American Cultural Center and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance. In 2010, she received a J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award from the State Bar of Texas for her work.

“We are very fortunate to have Wafa joining our Houston Volunteer Lawyers in this leadership role,” Houston Bar Association President Alistair B. Dawson said. “The depth of her experience with nonprofit organizations and her commitment to pro bono legal services will be a great asset as we move forward in providing pro bono legal representation to those in need in Houston and surrounding areas.”

Texas’ newest lawyers are sworn in at induction ceremony

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:30

The newest group of Texas attorneys took the Lawyer’s Oath Monday morning at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Members of the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, deans from Texas law schools, and representatives from the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Board of Law Examiners welcomed hundreds of law school graduates to the Texas Bar.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Texas Access to Justice Commission Executive Director Trish McAllister presented John VanBuskirk, a UNT Dallas College of Law student and Air Force and Army veteran with 780 pro bono hours, with the Access to Justice Law Student Pro Bono Award. Royal Furgeson Jr., the founding dean of UNT, accepted the Access to Justice Law School Commitment to Service Award for the law school.

State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick congratulated the new attorneys in the audience, applauding them for their sacrifice, perseverance, and scholarship in preparing for the Texas Bar Exam. “We must all be advocates for our legal system and our system of justice,” Vick said. “If we, as lawyers, do not stand up for what is right, we cannot expect those outside the legal community to do so. The members of the courts here and our fellow 100,000 lawyers are depending on you to carry the torch for justice as our new generation of lawyers.”

Baili Rhodes, president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, encouraged the new lawyers to research practice tip resources TYLA offers its members, such as Ten Minute Mentor and Office in a Flash, and also advised them to prioritize self care, find ways to serve their communities beyond their office walls, and internalize the Lawyer’s Oath.

“Don’t do the easy thing, do the right thing,” she said. “Whether it’s being truthful to opposing counsel or acting with candor to the court, with our 100,000 lawyers in the state, you will continue to run into the same ones again and again and again, and I encourage you each to remember to take the high road. The oath you are taking today—take it to heart and remember it as you enter your practice.”

Philip Murray MacGregor Cooper, the high scorer of July’s Texas Bar Exam and a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, spoke on the importance of self-doubt as motivation, relating a reassurance-seeking text exchange with a friend who had already passed the exam. In that conversation, Cooper asked if the exam was as hard as he was making it out to be, to which his friend replied, “The test is definitely failable.” It was a reality check that gave Cooper the sense of urgency he needed to pass—something he said his fellow graduates could use as fuel in their careers. “I hope that a similar sense of urgency stays with us throughout our careers,” Cooper said. “I hope that the same impulses that drove us to frantically learn about how to settle a mineral estate or probate a will also compel us to explore and analyze all aspects of the problems that our future clients present us.”

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who administered the Lawyer’s Oath, closed out the ceremony, telling the new lawyers that everything they do in their careers will contribute to a republic in which the rights, life, liberty, and property have displaced the lives on class, heredity, wealth, and mind. “You have a special responsibility not only to those you represent but to our profession and to this great experiment in democracy.”

Update from State Bar President Tom Vick—Nov. 17, 2017

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:45

State Bar President Tom Vick

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members Friday. 

If you haven’t already, you should soon receive a letter in the mail from your State Bar district director(s) on some of the bar’s latest projects and member benefits. The letter is part of a board initiative to better communicate with our members and provide ways for you to contact us with feedback. You’ll receive a similar message—this time by email—from your State Bar director(s) in the spring.

In the meantime, please read below for some other State Bar updates.

Transparency Task Force
President-elect Joe K. Longley has appointed a Transparency Task Force to explore what recommendations, if any, should be made to the State Bar Act, State Bar Rules, and/or the State Bar Board of Directors Policy Manual to improve transparency and openness within the State Bar. Upon completion of its work, the task force will make recommendations, if any, to the board in accordance with Section 1.14.07 of the State Bar Policy Manual.  Click here for a list of task force members.The State Bar is committed to transparency, and I look forward to receiving the task force’s recommendations.

Welcome, New Members
According to the Board of Law Examiners, 2,124 people passed the July 2017 Texas Bar Examination. Some of them have already been sworn in, so if this is your first update from me, welcome to the State Bar of Texas. I’m excited to welcome other members of this new class of Texas lawyers on Monday at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin. You can follow the hashtag #NewTXLawyer on social media for updates and photos from the ceremony.

Open Enrollment Ends December 15
Remember that the 2018 health insurance open enrollment period is under way through December 15, 2017. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to explore the offerings listed on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, an online clearinghouse for comparing and purchasing products from leading health insurance providers. Licensed benefits counselors are available to help you choose the best option for your needs. Federal rules shortened open enrollment to just 45 days this year, so please don’t wait to schedule an appointment with a benefits counselor.

Texas Minority Counsel Program
Last week, the State Bar hosted the 25th annual Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) in Austin. To call this program a success is an understatement. Every year, hundreds of attorneys attend this program for its unique format of valuable CLE credit, client development, and networking. This summer, the American Bar Association honored TMCP with a national Partnership Award for exemplary bar association projects that increase the participation and advancement of diverse lawyers. The State Bar leadership is proud of TMCP for its 25 years of success in helping us meet our mission of promoting diversity in the legal profession. Congratulations to the volunteers, staff, law firms, and corporations that make TMCP happen every year—and to 2017 TMCP award winners Abel Martinez, Rodney Ellis, and Lawrence Clifton Morgan.

National Pro Bono Celebration Week
We participated in the National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28) with a series of communications and events honoring lawyers who do pro bono work and publicizing ways that others can get involved. As part of the celebration, Houston Bar Association President Alistair Dawson and I wrote a column on the continuing need for volunteer attorneys to serve those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Click here to read the column in the (McAllen) Monitor.

Sutherland Springs Shooting
Finally, I applaud the Bexar County legal community for responding to the San Antonio Bar Association’s call for volunteers to provide legal assistance for those affected by the Sutherland Springs church shooting. Thank you to the San Antonio Bar and its Community Justice Program for stepping up to meet this need. The State Bar extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected by the tragedy.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

Exclusive deals on products and services

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:00

This holiday, your Beneplace Savings Program has plenty for you to be thankful for—including great discounts and seasonal savings! Breeze through your holiday shopping with exclusive deals on thousands of products and services. Shop electronics, flowers, gifts and more.

  • Panasonic – Save up to 60% with Panasonic! You’ll find everything from appliances and cameras to massage chairs and vacuum cleaners.
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Find all this and much more through your Beneplace discount website. Check back regularly for new deals and limited-time offers.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

TMCP names award winners during 2017 conference

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:30

More than 480 registrants attended the 25th Texas Minority Counsel Program conference November 8-10 in Austin.

Abel Martinez, group vice-president of partner relations, risk solutions, and government affairs with H-E-B Grocery Company, won the 2017 TMCP Lifetime Achievement Award. Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, also a senior adviser at Dentons US and a retired Texas senator, won the 2017 TMCP Trailblazer Outside Counsel of the Year Award. Lawrence Clifton Morgan, senior corporate counsel with Republic Services, won the 2017 TMCP Corporate Counsel of the Year Award.

TMCP was created in 1993 to increase opportunities for minority and women lawyers who provide legal services to corporate and government clients. More than 235 firms, corporations, schools, and government agencies participated in this year’s event.

New Texas lawyers to be sworn in November 20

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:00

New Texas lawyers will be officially sworn in on November 20 at the State Bar of Texas New Lawyers Induction Ceremony.

Attorneys who passed the July 2017 Texas Bar Examination are eligible to be inducted at the event, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

Parking information for the event can be found on the Frank Erwin Center website.

Follow the event on various State Bar social media accounts and share your posts using the hashtag #NewTXLawyer.

For questions and information, contact the State Bar Membership Department at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1303, or (512) 427-1383.

New TLAP video focuses on PTSD after Hurricane Harvey

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 16:00

A new video from the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, featuring TLAP Director Bree Buchanan and Austin psychiatrist Robert Cantu, focuses on identifying post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after Hurricane Harvey.

In The Trauma of Harvey: Identifying PTSD in Yourself and Others, Buchanan and Cantu discuss the symptoms of and treatment for PTSD after a natural disaster. Cantu said some of the symptoms of PTSD include manifestations of anxiety through hyper-arousal, or the feeling of constantly being on edge, and hyper-vigilance, or being keenly aware of what’s going on and perceiving threats and/or danger. Events can be a trigger, or a reminder of a natural disaster. For example, a thunderstorm could trigger thoughts of Hurricane Harvey. Survivors can also relive the events through “daymares” or nightmares. Another symptom is depression or despair— specifically in the case of Harvey having one’s world turned upside down, such as losing a spouse at an early age or losing a home.

What should people look for? Signs that people may be experiencing PTSD include hyper-vigilance, a change in personality or behavior, and increased drinking or new drug usage.

While anyone can experience PTSD, a segment of the population is more vulnerable to it, includingthose who have suffered childhood sexual or physical abuse or neglect; those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders; and those who have a previous or continued substance abuse problem. The accumulation of all the traumatic events in one’s life leads to a greater risk for PTSD, Cantu said.

Some treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” and medication. Psychotherapy can range from exposure therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy. Exposure therapy is the gradual exposure to the source of the trauma, from talking about it to being able to face a similar situation without being triggered. Cognitive behavioral therapy looks at how one perceives things and can help a person who feels like they could have done more to prevent the disaster or save more people to realize only so much could be done. A great form of cognitive behavioral therapy is a shared trauma group, Cantu said, noting thatveterans-only PTSD support groups provide those affected by PTSD with a common connection and relationship regarding their traumatic events.

Almost all people suffer from some form of PTSD after a traumatic event, such as a car accident. This reaction is normal and lasts about one to two months, Cantu said. He also noted that only a small percentage goes on to have chronic PTSD symptoms. He suggested identifying the warning signs of PTSD as early as possible as the best means of preventing chronic PTSD symptoms.

TLAP is a confidential service offered to lawyers and others in the legal profession to get help with PTSD, mental health issues, and substance abuse. Call (800) 343-8527 (TLAP) to speak with a representative.

Scams Continue to Target Texas Attorneys

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 08:00

Update 11/15/2017: We have received a report of another scam. A person in Australia was contacted by a scammer using a Texas attorney’s information. The person who was contacted was scammed previously and lost money, and he believes it is the same scammers who are contacting him again. In the emails, the scammers say they can recover the person’s money for him from a company, Norton Pearce Associates, that has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Update 9/13/17: We have received a report of another scam. A person in New York received a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson, who lives in Texas. She was told that he was in jail and needed bail money. They told her to call (877) 386-6064 for the Bradford Law Firm and ask for attorney Allen Roberts. The phone number has been disconnected, and the Texas attorney Allen Roberts is deceased.

Update 7/13/17: We received a report from an attorney who was contacted through their firm Facebook page and by e-mail by someone who claims that the attorney represents them in a lawsuit in Kenya. The person is not a client of the firm, and they have no record of any previous communication with the person.

Update 6/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys. An attorney received a scam email seeking representation to draft a purchase and sales agreement for a boat sale. The scammer sent the email using another attorney’s name in the email address. View the scam email attachment.

Update 5/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys.

A lawyer received a call from someone purporting to be from the State Bar of Texas. The caller, who identified the date the lawyer was admitted to practice law in Texas, offered the attorney a half-year free membership and listed associated benefits. After the attorney refused and ended the conversation, the caller attempted to contact another lawyer in his office but was stopped by the receptionist.

The State Bar of Texas Membership Department does not call attorneys with special offers for membership dues.

Update 5/4/17: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.

A law firm received emails from a person asking to hire the firm to collect payment for goods provided to a third party. The firm also received an email from the third party. Both emails were fake. The firm also received a check as a retainer, and upon verification with the Canadian bank listed on the check, confirmed it was fake. View the scam emails and fraudulent check.

Another law firm received several scam emails within a few days of each other from different senders from locations in Europe, the Netherlands, Africa, and the United States. The emails were requests for various legal services including help with a real estate loan default, seeking assistance with an investment, and drafting a purchase and sales agreement for a drilling rig. The firm also received a fake out of office reply email from a sender they did not contact.

Update 4/17/17: We received a report of another scam in which a law firm’s accounting department received an email purporting to be from the president of the firm, instructing them to pay a statement for $19,500 for professional service. When accounting requested more information, the president responded that the email was not from him. The address it appeared to come from was exeuva@comcast.net.

Update 4/11/2017: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.

An attorney received a phishing email. He tried to open an email which appeared to be from a referring attorney sending documents via DocuSign. Over 20 people on his contact list also received the email. The hackers sent out thousands of fake emails to his contacts which appeared to be coming from him. The hackers also responded to inquiries from his contacts questioning if the phishing email was legitimate.

Another attorney received a fraudulent check. He received a $400,000 check that cleared his bank and was told it was part of a $1,000,000 deal. He also received a second payment. He received instructions to deduct his fee and wire the remaining funds to Kenya. He called his bank to verify the check. The check had a name and address on it that appeared to belong to an oil company but was that of a U.S. insurance company.

Update 3/9/2017: We have received a report of a phishing scam targeting Texas attorneys. The scammer stated they were seeking legal counsel. View a copy of the scam email.

Update: 2/23/17: We have received reports of another scam email targeting Texas attorneys. Some attorneys have received emails that appear to be coming from another attorney. It appears that the scammer was able to access attorneys’ email address books for the purpose of forwarding the e-mail from one attorney to another giving the appearance that it is a referral. It is apparently a scam enlisting attorneys to prepare legal documents upon receiving a cashier’s check deposited in trust accounts with an overpayment of legal fees being returned to the scammer from the attorney’s trust account. The initial payment is fraudulent.

Law firms in Canada and the UK have received similar e-mails.

The scam emails are coming from the following accounts with the name Tijmen Smit: systemspecified@yahoo.com and jamescrosbyhalifax@yahoo.co.uk.

Update: 9/23/16: A San Antonio lawyer has notified the State Bar of Texas that he received a fraudulent check as part of an attempted scam. View the fraudulent check and scam letter.

Update 2/26/16: We received a report about another fraudulent check scam targeting attorneys.

Update 2/3/16: We received a report of a new scam targeting clients of attorneys. Scammers are “spoofing” phone numbers of attorneys and calling clients to get money. Read the full story.

Update 10/23/15: The State Bar of Texas has been alerted to a potential email scam involving a debt collection. On October 20, a Fort Sam Houston attorney received an email from a sender who claimed that she had lent a sum of money to a borrower, and that the borrower had not yet repaid the loan in full and had since moved to Texas. The sender claimed she was seeking legal assistance in the matter and requested information about the attorney’s fees. The message also included a copy of two checks (here and here) and an alleged loan agreement promissory note.

Update 10/8/15: We received a recent report of a scam targeting attorneys. An attorney was contacted by a company and received a bogus check. Read the details on this fraudulent check scam.

Update 2/26/15. We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.

Update 6/4/14. We received a report this week about a sophisticated scam involving collection with a fraudulent certified check that has affected at least three Texas attorneys. Read the details here. 

10/18/13. We received a report today that the name of a San Antonio law firm is being used in a debt collection scam, where scammers apparently obtained files from a payday loan company. The scammers are calling people all over the country, saying they are with the law firm, and threatening the people with arrest if they do not immediately pay their debts. Law enforcement and the Secret Service in San Antonio are investigating the matter.


Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving fraudulent checks or wire transfers. These scams are increasing in sophistication, sometimes involving innocent third parties who seek legal services at the request of a scam artist.

The bottom line is this: Never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected.

Scam scenarios include:

  • a request for help in collecting a divorce settlement from an ex-spouse
  • unsolicited email requests for legal help collecting money or judgments, sometimes apparently coming from actual professionals whose identities have been stolen
  • a real estate transaction for an overseas client (whose identity was stolen by a scam artist) involving an innocent third-party realtor
  • impersonation of law firms by scam artists who issue bogus checks and attempt to charge a fee for the checks to clear
  • a bogus check received by a law firm, purportedly for payment regarding representation of an inmate
  • impersonation of a lawyer and law firm by a scammer “collecting debts” under the attorney’s name

Again, be vigilant and do not disburse funds from your accounts until underlying funds have cleared your bank (and not simply been made “available”).

Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.

Stories of Recovery: No More Drinking Games

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 07:00

Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

I am a lawyer celebrating my first year as a solo. I am a horse trainer, a wife, a sister, and a Pinterest queen. I am also an alcoholic.

I didn’t drink until I was almost 21. Alcohol didn’t interest me. I was busy with school and my horses. None of my friends drank much, and I didn’t understand the appeal. My last year of college, I started working a service industry job and drank socially with my co-workers. Weekly. Twice a week. After a tough shift. After every other shift. Before shifts. At home. On my way home. Within months, I went from a non-drinker to a daily drinker. I genuinely believed I didn’t have a problem. Other people did it, and they were fine. The ones that overdid it, well, I wasn’t one of those people. I had a degree. I was smart. I wasn’t going to ruin my life with alcohol. I wasn’t one of those losers.

After about a year, I found myself playing “drinking games” with myself. I would bargain with myself, make promises, count cans. If I could go two days dry, I could have a day to drink. If I made it the whole week, I would reward myself with blackout drinking binges over the weekend. My plans revolved around whether or not there would be beer or wine available. I started hiding my drinking. I would have “a couple glasses of wine” at a friend’s house over dinner, then go home and drink a couple bottles. I lost my job. I told myself it had nothing to do with drinking. I lost friends. We grew apart, I said to myself. I couldn’t maintain a relationship more than a few months. I was young and wild, I told myself. I was a free spirit. I was blacking out once a week, sometimes on less than a six-pack of beer.

In October 2011, I got my first DWI. I decided to go to law school to salvage my life and make something of myself. I received a negative preliminary determination letter in my 1L year. The board thought I had a drinking problem. That was when I first learned about the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP). It took me another two years and a second DWI to pick up the phone and call.

That first call was a nightmare. I was horrified, embarrassed, ashamed, and extremely hungover. I spoke to a woman over the phone, Cameron, and suddenly I just had to tell someone, anyone, about my terrible, impossible situation.

I know exactly what I sounded like—I’ve since heard countless nearly identical distressed dialogues at newcomer AA meetings. Cameron asked if it was all right if she gave my number to a lawyer “in recovery.” I agreed, unsure of what “in recovery” even meant. Were they going to commit me to a hospital? For being a drunk? Can I die from this? Am I the worst case they’ve ever taken?

Five minutes later, a retired attorney called my cellphone and we spoke for over an hour. I was in disbelief at what she told me. Everything I was experiencing was textbook alcoholism. She knew about the games I played with myself, because she had played them. She understood the panic, the hopelessness, the defiance, the determination to save myself and my repeated failures. I was not terminally unique. I was not suffering from some impossible, unknown, unsolvable incapacitation. I was an alcoholic. And I was treatable.

I did not get sober that day. Two months later, I took the bar and went on a three-day bender. The Sunday after the bar, I drove home sweaty, chilled, and sick. I pulled over several times to heave. I couldn’t avoid myself any longer. I couldn’t lie to myself. I couldn’t pretend I had everything under control. I had managed to get through law school and take the bar exam. I had a cute car (had to get a new one after I totaled the other ones), a great husband, and a mortgage. I had a closet full of size 2 Ann Taylor skirt suits, and I could recite the bar essay answers by heart.

I had vomit in my hair.

I managed to pull into a Half Price Books and bought a copy of the Big Book. The clerk practically threw it at me in an attempt to get me out of the store. She probably thought I was homeless. I smelled homeless. I read the book cover to cover that evening. When I finished it, I called TLAP and my mentor. I went to sleep sober that night.

I passed the bar, but I did not have a law license. Not yet. I had to prove to the board that I was serious about treating my disease. And I was serious, except for the fact that they recommended I take tests (that cost money), get a series of counseling sessions (more money), and see a psychiatrist (basically a million dollars). The list of “must do’s” seemed impossible. I didn’t have health insurance and I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt from my DWI costs, not to mention my loans were kicking in. So, I called TLAP. They offered assistance in helping me find affordable care, giving me information about grants and free programs, and gave me access to a phenomenal psychiatrist who specializes in alcoholism, anxiety, and depression in professionals. I started attending Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers meetings in my area and over the phone on Fridays. Through TLAP and the lawyers I met in the program, I was able to find AA meetings close to me. My recovery network continues to extend today.

On August 1, 2015, I woke up hungover and went to bed sober. I have two years of sobriety under my belt, a license to practice law, and I’m going to bed sober tonight.

One day at a time

San Antonio Bar Association rallies pro bono volunteers to assist Sutherland Springs victims

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 14:34

In a message to members, San Antonio Bar Association President Beth Watkins said the need for legal services for those affected by the recent mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church will likely exceed what the legal community in that area can provide.

The San Antonio Bar Association predicts there will be a need for pro bono legal services in the areas of family, probate, guardianship, employment, and real estate law as a result of the tragedy. SABA and its pro bono project, the Community Justice Program, will perform legal intake services at the Sutherland Springs Disaster Resource Center, which serves as a hub of assistance for those affected by the tragedy.

“We must come together to care for this community and help them mend,” SABA Executive Director June Moynihan said in a news release.

Attorneys who are willing to volunteer with this effort should email the following information to cjp@sabar.org:

  • Your name,
  • Your phone number,
  • Your email address, and
  • What legal services (family law, probate, guardianship, real estate law) you can provide.

Sutherland Springs is a 45-minute drive from the Bexar County Courthouse. Volunteer attorneys should be prepared to travel to Floresville, the county seat of Wilson County, for any court proceedings. Wilson County Attorney Tom Caldwell has taken steps to waive county court filing fees and will serve as a local resource for volunteer attorneys.

Individuals or families affected by the Sutherland Springs tragedy who are in need of legal assistance should reach out to the Community Justice Program through the resource center, via phone at (210) 227-8828, or by email at cjp@sabar.org.

San Antonio Bar Association hosts a veterans legal clinic November

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 09:50

The San Antonio Bar Association will host a walk-in legal clinic on Friday, November 17th at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital.

The clinic is open to all veterans and their spouses who are unable to afford a private attorney. Volunteer attorneys from the Community Justice Program, the bar association’s pro bono project, will be available to provide legal advice and some representations on-site such as wills and powers of attorney.

Full legal representation options are available on a case-by-case basis.

The clinic is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital, 7400 Merton Minter, San Antonio 78229, and will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on this clinic and others, contact the Community Justice Program at cjpclients@sabar.org.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please visit the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans website at texasbar.com/veterans.

Disaster-Response Lessons for Lawyers and Law Firms

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 14:00

Hurricane Harvey made landfall after days of weather reports and news updates in August 2017. Some of the preparation was last-minute as residents scrambled for safety. Other preparation had begun years earlier, based on lessons learned in responding to other disasters. When the rain subsided, we learned that families and businesses had sustained billions of dollars in damage.

The Texas legal community quickly stepped up to help Hurricane Harvey victims. A Texas lawyer now, I am reminded of my experience in New York helping families and business victims after 9/11. Many of us in the New York legal community—like people throughout the city and beyond—wanted to provide relief. Our experience yielded lessons in responding to disasters that are important for all lawyers and law firms.


As my law firm in New York received requests for help, it seemed to me that an organized response was necessary. I asked the partner in charge of pro bono if he needed help coordinating our resources. He put me in charge and enlisted a junior lawyer and paralegal to help (the “coordination team”). We got to work.

Requests for volunteer assistance were extensive and varied. Lawyers and other legal personnel were needed to represent victims, staff tables, help complete applications for financial assistance and death certificates, notarize documents, and translate for non-native English speakers. The coordination team took several steps to organize the response.

Evaluate requests. We reviewed requests for assistance, evaluated them in terms of the firm’s capabilities, and communicated with firm leaders about policy. Given the firm’s expertise in business law, the coordination team focused on requests from small businesses.

Assess resources. The coordination team gathered information about and helped to assess the firm’s staffing resources, helping firm leaders to make decisions about volunteering while ensuring that ongoing client needs were met.

Set procedures. We worked with firm leaders to set and implement procedures—to help the volunteering go smoothly, to minimize questions from volunteers, to maximize the quality of volunteer assistance, and to comply with existing procedures. For example, we developed client intake guidelines for 9/11 pro bono matters, using the firm’s standard intake procedure as a model.

Communicate. For the coordination team, daily communication with stakeholders was essential. We communicated with firm leaders, lawyers and staff members, bar associations, charitable organizations, and other entities.

Train. The coordination team arranged for the firm’s volunteers to receive training and supervision. We provided in-house training, facilitated access to outside training, and arranged for senior lawyers to supervise more junior lawyers on pro bono matters.

Track. Finally, we tracked the firm’s volunteer response, setting up and maintaining a database to record individuals’ involvement. The coordination team solicited feedback from volunteers and apprised firm leaders and fellow volunteers about developments.


Many 9/11 victims needed help with a variety of legal and administrative issues. Bar associations, charitable organizations, courts, and law firms developed educational resources for volunteers who wanted to help but who were not specialists in particular areas. Our coordination team gathered and distributed information about these resources to the firm’s volunteers.

Training sessions. Organizations designed and hosted training sessions on topics such as: (1) representing a 9/11 client—taking a legal inventory of the client’s needs, prioritizing the needs, acting as a problem solver, and finding other experts to assist when necessary; (2) handling landlord/tenant, family law, and other types of legal matters; (3) helping families obtain death certificates; and (4) helping small-business victims apply for financial benefits.

Manuals. Organizations also created written manuals about substantive legal issues, as well as the many public and private benefits available to 9/11 victims.

Websites. Certain organizations with online capabilities dedicated webpages to the 9/11 response, making educational resources and other information easily accessible to volunteers.


While educational resources provided lawyers with basic information about certain areas of law, some pro bono clients had complex problems requiring more specialized legal assistance. Fortunately, many legal community members cooperated with each other in helping 9/11 victims. The coordination team helped identify specialists with whom the firm could collaborate.

Mentors and Co-Counsel. The firm collaborated with specialists in insurance law and personal injury law to assist two clients with complex problems. The insurance lawyer—an in-house counsel at an insurance company—mentored the firm’s lawyers on one matter. The personal injury lawyer—a solo practitioner—took the lead on a wrongful death case, and the firm provided extensive back-office support, including legal research, investigative, and document preparation services.

Consultants. An expert witness-consulting firm with which my firm had previously worked volunteered on one of our pro bono matters. It analyzed cultural and economic differences in a foreign country to assist the family of a person who had emigrated to the U.S. and died on 9/11. The family’s legal team included this analysis in an application for funding that was to be awarded based on factors such as the victim’s expected “lifetime earnings” and the extent to which the victim likely would have been a breadwinner for extended family members.

Affiliates. Lawyers in one of the firm’s international offices obtained a birth certificate and other official documents for the family of another person who had emigrated to the U.S. and died on 9/11. These documents were among those that the family needed to obtain a death certificate and apply for certain financial assistance.

Hopefully, these lessons learned in the wake of 9/11 are helpful for responding to disasters now and in the future. Although our society continually endeavors to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such disasters, we also must continually endeavor to improve our responses to them.

Teresa Schiller is a business and employment lawyer in Waco at Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson. While practicing law at another law firm in New York, she coordinated the firm’s volunteer response and represented victims in the wake of 9/11.

Share your blog on Texas Bar Today

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 08:01

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Veterans Legal Aid Week offers free services to vets Nov. 6-10

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 13:15

Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week, coordinated statewide by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, honors Texas Veterans during the week of Veterans Day. From November 6 to 10, legal aid programs, local bar associations, law schools, and pro bono attorneys will provide free civil legal services to qualified veterans.

Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and legal issues make up five of the top 10 unmet needs of homeless veterans.

In 2016, the clinic workshops during Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week provided assistance to more than 2,500 veterans, according to a press release.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation provided $1.87 million in grants this year to 14 nonprofits that provide free legal services for veterans and the 85th Legislature appropriated $3 million for the biennium to fund legal services for veterans and their families, according to the release.

For a complete schedule, go to texaslawhelp.org/tvlaw-2017.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans webpage at texasbar.com/veterans.

A roundup of veterans legal clinics across Texas leading up to Veterans Day

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 09:45

Leading up to Veterans Day, November 11, bar associations and volunteer attorney programs across Texas are offering legal clinics for veterans. Here is a roundup of those currently scheduled:

Baylor Law School

  • Veterans Simple Estate Planning Clinic
  • Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, 2010 La Salle, Waco 76706
  • November 9 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Contact: (254) 710-4244 or veterans_clinic@baylor.edu

Houston Bar Association/Veterans Legal Initiative

  • Weekly Veterans Legal Clinic
  • Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, 2002 Holcombe Blvd., 1st , Houston 77030
  • Every Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Contact: (713) 333-VETS (8387)
  • Free Legal Advice Clinic
  • Texas City VA Outpatient Clinic, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expy., Ste. 206, Texas City 77591
  • November 11 from 9 a.m. to noon
  • Contact: (713) 333-VETS (8387)
  • Free Legal Clinic
  • Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic, 690 S. Loop 336 W., Conroe 77304
  • November 11 from 9 a.m. to noon
  • Contact: (713) 333-VETS (8387)

Jefferson County Bar Association

  • Veterans Appreciation Cookout/Resource Fair
  • Lamar University, 4400 S. MLK Pkwy., Beaumont 77705
  • November 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Contact: (409) 835-8647; please call to confirm date and event location
  • Hiring Red, White & YOU Veteran Job/Resource Fair
  • Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas, 510 Park St., Beaumont 77701
  • November 9 from 9 a.m. – noon
  • Contact: (409) 835-8647; please call to confirm date and event location

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas/Texas Workforce Commission’s Veterans Assistance Program (McKinney)

  • Veterans Legal Clinic
  • Workforce Solutions Office, 1701 W. Eldorado, Ste. 250, McKinney 75069
  • November 9 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Contact: (972) 542-9405, ext. 0, or vigil@lanwt.org

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (Midland)

  • Veterans Legal Clinic
  • Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, 212 N. Main St., Ste. 101, Midland 79701
  • November 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Contact: (432) 686-0647, ext. 5503, or scribnerm@lawnt.org.

Lone Star Legal Aid

  • S. Vets Legal Clinic
  • S. Vets, Dining Hall, 4640 Blodgett St., Houston 77002
  • Every Monday (non-holidays) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Waco VA Legal Clinic
  • Waco VA Medical Center, 4800 Memorial Dr., Bldg. 91, Rm. 2B109, Waco 76711
  • 2nd Wednesday of each month (non-holidays) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Northeast Texas Association of Paralegals/State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division—District 14

  • Wills for Heroes (appointment required)
  • The Roc, 209 E. South St., Longview 75601
  • November 11—Time TBD
  • Contact: (903) 236-4990 or msturdy@joneslawyers.com; please call to register and for time of clinic


To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans webpage at texasbar.com/veterans.


Vick: Honor our veterans through service, giving

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 15:08

Tom Vick

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members on Friday.

Dear Members,

We as a country seek to honor our veterans in many ways.

The State Bar of Texas, local bars, legal aid agencies, and many varied volunteer service organizations seek to honor veterans by serving them—providing free or low-cost legal services to veterans and their families.

Texas has the second largest population of veterans in the country, and, according to a 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs survey, legal issues account for four of the top 10 unmet needs of homeless veterans.

Earlier this year, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) launched the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services. Joe was a Marine before he became the enormously successful lawyer we knew. In his honor, Houston attorney Richard Mithoff created the fund to keep alive Joe’s vision of access to justice for all.

To assist with fundraising efforts, just last month, TAJF announced a “Remembering Our Heroes” campaign. It aims to recognize veterans and active duty military personnel by allowing contributors to donate to the Jamail endowment on behalf of a veteran or an active-duty member of the military. The foundation intends to honor those service members in a series of events surrounding Veterans Day.

I encourage you, in honor of this Veterans Day, to consider how you can serve a Texas veteran. Can you provide pro bono help through a local bar or volunteer organization? Is there a veteran whom you want to honor through the “Remembering Our Heroes” campaign?

Every act, no matter how small you think it may be, makes a difference.

Information about how to donate to the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services and/or to honor a veteran through the “Remembering Our Heroes” campaign can be found on the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s website—teajf.org.

The State Bar, through the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans program, continues to support local bar associations and volunteer organizations as they reach out to serve veterans in their communities. To view a calendar of legal clinics across the state and get involved, go to texasbar.com/veterans.

Reminder About Open Enrollment
I also want to remind you that the 2018 health insurance open enrollment period is under way through December 15, 2017. I encourage you to explore the offerings listed on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, an online clearinghouse for comparing and purchasing products from leading health insurance providers. The exchange is available for individuals or employer groups and is open to members of the State Bar of Texas, their employees, local bar staff, and Texas law students, including spouses, domestic partners, and dependents. Licensed benefits counselors are available to help you choose the best option for your individual needs. Federal rules have shortened open enrollment to just 45 days this year, so I encourage you to schedule an appointment with a benefits counselor (texasbar.memberbenefits.com/get-help/) as soon as possible. Visit memberbenefits.com/texasbar for more information.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

New deals and seasonal specials

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 08:00

If you’re not visiting your Beneplace Savings Program regularly, you’re missing out! New deals and seasonal specials are added often. In fact, if you take advantage of these great deals throughout the year, you could be saving $2,000 annually. Today, check out new offers on concert tickets, luggage, golf equipment, and much more.

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  • Premium Seats VIP – Use Premium Seats to find great deals on sports, concert and theater tickets! Check out their VIP packages for additional perks and accommodations.
  • The Dinner Daily – Save 25% on a membership to the award-winning Dinner Daily! Dinner Daily provides you with weekly, healthy menus based on your store specials.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

July 2017 Texas Bar Exam results released

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 16:17

Congratulations to all who passed the July 2017 Texas Bar examination.

We’re excited to meet all of you at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony at 10 a.m. November 20 at the Frank C. Erwin Center in Austin.

The full list of those who passed the test can be found on the Texas Board of Law Examiners website. Statistics for the exam will be posted next week according to the website.

New and current lawyers took to social media to celebrate the results of the exam.

Free legal clinic to be held for veterans in Tomball

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 09:30

Veterans can receive free legal advice at a clinic hosted by the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative on Saturday, November 4.

The clinic will offer veterans and spouses of deceased veterans advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate and tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Those who qualify for legal aid and are in need of ongoing legal representation may be assigned a pro bono attorney to take their case.

The clinic, which does not require an appointment, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tomball VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St., Tomball 77375.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly Friday afternoon clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. For more information, go to hba.org.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans webpage at texasbar.com/veterans.